In the Wheelhouse

Analysis of News Events
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In this new column, Steve Pitcher examines and analyzes the news and issues surrounding our industry.


This week we'll talk about IBM PureSystems, IBM Collaboration Solutions education, Betamax vs. IBM i, and the striking similarities between RPG and Freddy Krueger. Really.

A Brief IBM PureSystems Recap

On April 11, 2012, IBM announced the next step in its Smarter Planet initiative: IBM PureSystems. I plan on delving much deeper into the subject in a later column, but I wanted to talk about what many of us have seen on the surface of the announcement.

It's very familiar, isn't it?


You save money on manpower, you save computer room space, you have intelligent computing and integrated everything. As I was watching the kickoff, it occurred to me very quickly that the key principles of "expert integrated systems" kept ringing in my ears like an IBM i announcement: integration by design, simplified experience, and built-in expertise.


We've been touting similar concepts for years, from the days of the AS/400 all the way up to today's modern Power Systems. It's all those familiar features of human growth hormone plus more. IBM PureSystems takes these concepts and builds a better mousetrap, truly looking like a very promising future. What a feeling! It was suddenly as though the rest of the world was being introduced to the concepts IBM i enthusiasts have been raving about forever.


PureSystems gives the customer essentially an entire server room in a box, for both Power and x86-64 workloads. Those familiar IBM i principles have been applied to the PureSystems platform in order to extend the integration and simplification to the entire enterprise, not just the IBM i portion.


What does this mean for you?


First, Power Systems is not going away. It's no secret that IBM i on Power Systems (along with its predecessors) is entrenched in the SMB market. The smaller PureFlex option may be a little too big for smaller shops with one partition right now. However, the way data and IT demands are growing, a PureFlex Entry option could be in your sights in a couple of years.


Second, you need to imagine taking the consolidation and simplification principles of IBM i and applying them to your entire IT infrastructure. PureSystems can help facilitate that.


More to come on this. We'll get into the nuts and bolts very soon. The principles of what PureSystems is derived from and more importantly what the big picture opportunity of how PureSystems can help your company is what really matters the most.


IBM Multimedia Libraries Updated

IBM has updated Multimedia Libraries (MMLs) for IBM Quickr, IBM Sametime, IBM Lotus iNotes, and IBM Connections (announcement letter 212-209). If you run these products, you can take advantage of the updated libraries to offer relatively low-cost education to your users.


Although this product is currently supported to run on IBM i, these Multimedia Libraries can be served by any Domino server as a traditional application, accessed via an intranet site, or deployed as a widget in your Lotus Notes sidebar.


Here's what you get in each library in terms of content:

Each option has approximately 300 video tutorials to help new users who are getting used to the basics or advanced users who are learning the newest productivity features. Offered in 11 languages, these Multimedia Libraries are a great way to educate your users and cut down on help desk calls. You can also organize individual videos for specific users (such as new-hires) or for specific software rollouts if you were to add any one of these products to your environment.


Pricing for each library is tiered at 5000, 25000, 75000, or unlimited users. You need to contact an IBM representative to get a 15- day trial of an MML and pricing for your company.


My only concern is that pricing starts at the 5000-user level. What if my business has 400 users? I would have to purchase the 5,000-user license, making my cost per actual user much higher than if I had 5000 users. It would be great if they could add an SMB offering for smaller shops. Many would probably gladly take advantage of this solution if the price was a little more affordable. Some might even want multiple products (my company would want Lotus Notes, Quickr, and Sametime). Obviously, the more users you have, the more attractive this product really is. But even for a 400-user shop, for example, it's still an awesome investment, considering the amount of content you get.


Updates for these Multimedia Libraries are valid as long as you're in the current version release. For instance, if I purchased the Lotus Notes 8.5.3 Multimedia Library, I could then upgrade to the 8.5.4 MML once available. When IBM releases Lotus Notes 9, I would have to pay for the Version 9 MML, which is fair considering the length of time between full-version updates. So the actual cost per user goes down dramatically if you think about it as a multi-year investment. 


What Would It Take for You to Refer to the Platform as "IBM i"?

There's a very lively discussion on LinkedIn regarding the name of the platform. We have a divided community:


  • Those who call IBM i on Power Systems…well, IBM i on Power Systems
  • Those who call IBM i on Power Systems AS/400, the 400, iSeries, System i, etc.


There's a very simple question being asked: what would it take for you to refer to the platform you run as IBM i?


At 148 comments at last count, it's clear that there's much passion in the IBM i community. I encourage you to jump into the fray and join the discussion. Where do you stand on this subject?


I'm in camp #1. I call IBM i on Power Systems just that. I also call IBM i on PureSystems just that as well, but I don't have any PureSystems servers...yet. I, however, don't call anything running IBM i an AS/400.


I don't call Netflix on my iPad a Betamax either.


Share your thoughts on the comment thread. And please, keep it clean.


RPG Is Dead. Yes, It Died. Again.

It turns out that RPG has been pronounced dead once more, this time by iProDeveloper Senior Technical Editor Mel Beckman.


I'm a big horror movie fan. I've seen all the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm Street films—even the remakes. Just like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger, every few years you can count on RPG to rise from the grave and prove how foolish people are for thinking it's dead and buried.


Beckman's article set off a major debate about the status and future of the RPG language. The comments about the article, many from well-respected members of the IBM i and RPG community, piled up faster than a 1980's slasher film body count.


While later declared an opinion piece by Executive Editor Rita-Lyn Sanders in print, this article set off a firestorm of criticism of iProDeveloper and Beckman.


I have a few gripes with the article that have yet to be addressed:


  • The alternative IBM i languages Beckman promotes as viable tools for creating new applications (C, C++, C#, Python, Perl, JavaScript, and Ruby) are not really viable at all. For new applications, I see more people either writing them in RPG or jumping on the PHP boat than anything. How many C programmers are writing new applications for IBM i?
  • Beckman's opinions weren't backed up by any named sources or quotes.
  • Beckman alludes that RPG can't be coded in free-format.


If you haven't read the article, please do so and tell iProDeveloper that you are creating new applications in RPG. Perhaps then they will change their staunch support of Beckman's opinion for the greater good of the RPG and IBM i community. Negativity about the modern RPG language does not promote the much-needed unity to our community. In fact, it divides our community and helps the detractors attempt to convince IBM i customers to move away from the platform with terms like old, legacy, and out of date.


RPG is dead? Nothing is further from the truth.


IBM i Access Client Solutions

Announced a little while ago was a technology preview of IBM i Access Client Solutions: a Java-based, platform-independent application that consolidates most commonly used functions for accessing and managing IBM i. Chief Architect for IBM i Steve Will says it removes "dependence on pre-installed code," which is a very exciting improvement for anyone who's maintaining many client installations of the IBM i Access for Windows behemoth. Administrators, IBM i Access Client Solutions may be a major solution for you. The technology preview is scheduled for July 2, 2012, so mark your calendars and prepare to call in sick, turn off your phone, and shut the curtains. You don't want to miss this one.


The below features of IBM i Access Client Solutions are taken from the announcement page.


  • 5250 display and printer emulation based on IBM's Host-on-Demand
  • 5250 Session Manager support modeled after IBM Personal Communications Session Manager
  • Multiple language support for concurrent 5250 emulation sessions on the same client
  • Data Transfer similar to IBM i Access for Windows Data Transfer plus support for OpenDocument spreadsheet (*.ods), Excel Workbook (*.xlsx), and other file formats
  • Virtual Control Panel with a graphical interface to the IBM i control panel
  • 5250 emulation for LAN Console
  • Consolidation of hardware management interface configurations, including ASMI, IVM, and HMC



Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly


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